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Use of instrumental for

Discussion in 'Polski (Polish)' started by Lorenc, Oct 13, 2012.

  1. Lorenc Junior Member

    Italian
    All the modern Polish grammars I know say that in sentences of the type: I am a doctor, professor... (profession) or I am Polish, Italian... (nationality) one should the instrumental case (Jestem doktorem, professorem, Polakiem, Włochem...). On the other hand the nominative is used when declaring one's identity (Jestem Michał, jestem profesor Kowalski) or when using adjectives (jestem szczęśliwy).
    I have found an interesting passage about such use of the instrumental in this very old grammar
    Antoni Małecki, Gramatyka historyczno-porownawcza jezyka polskiego, Tom II (Lwów, 1879)
    http://www.archive.org/stream/gramatykahistor00magoog#page/n7/mode/2up
    pag. 425


    Podobnie więc i rzeczowne orzeczenie kładzie się w dobrej polszczyźnie, w wyżéj określonych granicach, to jest będąc orzeczeniem właściwym, zawsze tylko w pierwszym przypadku. Na przykład, nikt nie powie inaczéj, jak tylko: Jestem Antoni, jestem Jan, Michał; jestem Lelewel, jestem książę Poniatowski; jestem hrabia, jestem literat, profesor, generał, mieszczanin, chłop, jestem szlachcic; jestem Polak, jestem Żyd. Ja nie Żyd, żebym się z tobą targował; ja król w tym narodzie jestem; ja tu rządzę, ja tu pan — ałbo ja tu pani!
    — "Czego Pan chcesz, na co tu wchodzisz?" zagaduje chory wchodzącego do jego pokoju nieznajomego — a ten mu na to: „Jestem doktor".


    I would like to know how this old usage, in particular "Jestem Polak", sounds to modern ears: old-fashioned but conceivable or just plain wrong?
    Also, I would like to know how sentences similar to the example from the grammar book can be formulated; for example: Hello? It's the postman here, can I come in?


    Thanks!
    L.
     
  2. LilianaB Senior Member

    US New York
    Lithuanian
    Hi, Lorenc. It sounds wrong to me -- totally wrong, but please wait for other opinions. Dzień dobry. Tu listonosz.

    With negation, it sounds somewhat better. Ja nie Polak sounds better in a specific context than Jestem Polak.
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2012
  3. Franciszek Kolpanowicz New Member

    Polish
    For me it sounds very old-fashioned - so it may be used only when one wants to stylise one's statement, otherwise it's a plain mistake. It appears in old poems, songs and rhymes (e.g. "Kto ty jesteś? - Polak mały. Jaki znak Twój? - Orzeł biały") though. And - I've heard some Ukrainians who speak Polish that way and that's very distinguishable.
     
  4. LilianaB Senior Member

    US New York
    Lithuanian
    'Kto ty jesteś" is also an archaic form -- the contemporary form would be: "Kim Pan/Pani jest/", or rather "Jakiej jest Pan/Pani narodowości?".
     
  5. BezierCurve Senior Member

    A very good observation, Lorenc. I wouldn't say it is that old fashioned though. You can hear young people use it too, mostly in everyday speech. Also, it is nearly always used for emphasis when passing judgements on other people ("jesteś świnia", "on to jest gość").
     
  6. kknd Senior Member

    Polska / Poland
    polski / Polish
    it seems that doktor, professor among other professions and nationalities were treated more as identity indicators than descriptions of a man (now it's perfectly normal to change jobs few times in a one's lifetime where it was probably quite shocking during times of writing the grammar book: if someone was born as a count he was one till end of his days, probably the same with the peasants etc.). i see it as perfectly conceivable and rather not plain wrong but wrong enough to point that one should use instrumental; to be frank it was you with this citation that it's old-fashioned "high" polish and not regional or dialect variant of the language.

    of course it's still Jestem Antoni, jestem Jan, Michał; jestem Lelewel, jestem książę Poniatowski; but jestem hrabia, profesor, generał would be used only before one's name, if somebody would like to introduce him self as a count, professor or general he should use then instrumental (jestem hrabią, profesorem, generałem as a mark of his ancestry or profession; i think nobody would introduce today as a literat, mieszczanin, chłop, szlachcic, first one is also old-fashioned but understandable). one can still hear something along Ja nie Żyd, żebym się z tobą targował but rather not in rural areas (Warsaw Praga district?!). saying Czego Pan chcesz, na co tu wchodzisz? would be perceived as rude in general; nowadays one could say Czego Pan chce, na co tu wchodzi? with still impolite attitude in it (maybe Czego Pan tu chce? Czemu Pan tu wchodzi? would be little bit better). and the last one: physicians would introduce themselves Jestem lekarzem now instead of Jestem doktor[em].
     
  7. LilianaB Senior Member

    US New York
    Lithuanian
    Well, then you wouldn't say Jestem right, in contemporary Polish?. Just Hrabia X and Księżniczka Y, extending your hand. Could you still introduce yourself as Count or Countess in contemporary Polish? :D
     
  8. Franciszek Kolpanowicz New Member

    Polish
    This is an interesting explanation, but why would the nationality change its status from identitive to descriptive to a man? And if it wasn't that reason for changing nominative to instrumental considering the nationality, why would it be for the profession?
     
  9. kknd Senior Member

    Polska / Poland
    polski / Polish
    i had small talk with my aquintance and we came to such conclusions: it could happend that no change in nationality status occured because both functions (identitive and descriptive) were plainly merged; as for beginning of instrumental use in such context we guess that jestem student, Polak, profesor point personal traits of the person speaking (looking on a dot and it's distintive features, cf. to jest [prawdziwy] mężczyzna, to jest Polak) and jestem studentem, Polakiem, profesorem gives reference to whole group (looking on a dot inside of whole bag of dots, identifying it with others because of it features, cf. on jest mężczyzną, on jest Polakiem); as for nationality we can guess that it could reflect "Spring of the Nations" attitudes in Poland, when speaking about professions it could be just some kind of inertia changing along aforementioned case. really hard to guess. any other ideas?
     
  10. LilianaB Senior Member

    US New York
    Lithuanian
    Hi, KKnd. I really doubt it. (both assumptions, in fact). When someone introduces himself or herself, they say: Profesor Janicki, but when they describe their position, or occupation, they say: jestem profesorem na universytecie. The use of the cases must have to do with something else. It could be the influence of Latin (in titles such as Doktor, Profesor), or something else, but not the above factors, in my opinion. Jestem Polak -- might simply be an archaic form.
     
  11. Lorenc Junior Member

    Italian
    Thank you all for the very informative replies!
     
  12. francisgranada Senior Member

    Slovakia
    Hungarian
    Only for curiosity, the difference can be still recognized in Slovak:
    "Som profesor" - identity, i.e. I'm a professor (and not something else)
    "Som profesorom na univerzite" - I have the "function/job/position" of professor at the university

    (som = jestem)
     
  13. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    Norway
    Polish
    The use of the nominative while identifying oneself or somebody/something is still alive in Polish, but restricted to informal speech, dialects, sociolects. Thus “Jestem profesorem” is the only one to be expected, but “Ja tam jestem prosty robotnik” is most likely to be used.
     
  14. dreamlike

    dreamlike Senior Member

    Poland
    Polish
    Adding to Ben Jamin's point, which is a good one by the way, I'd say that in my experience some people might be apt to insert "tylko" -- "Ja tam jestem tylko prosty robotnik".
     
  15. LilianaB Senior Member

    US New York
    Lithuanian
    I don't know about Jestem robotnik in contemporary Polish, so I cannot comment on that, but regarding introductions, I am convinced that the Nominative is often used -- without the verb, however --" Profesor Jabłonski -- Konsul Kowalski -- bardzo mi miło".






    .
     
  16. dreamlike

    dreamlike Senior Member

    Poland
    Polish
    There's nothing to comment on, Liliana -- take our word for it, some people use it this way :) As for the second point that you have made -- that's true, but how else would they introduce themselves? That's a slightly different story, since it's missing the verb, as you rightly pointed out.
     
  17. LilianaB Senior Member

    US New York
    Lithuanian
    Yes, the verb is missing, but the verb was originally in the introducing expression (in the archaic form). Jestem Książę Poniatowski, etc. People often say -- jestem kierowcą ciężarówki, murarzem (I am a truck driver, a bricklayer), so I don't know why robotnik (a laborer) would be any diffrent -- although it might be in certain varieties of Polish, but probably not in standard Polish.
     
  18. dreamlike

    dreamlike Senior Member

    Poland
    Polish
    You could well replace "robotnik" with any other profession, I think it was just for the sake of illustration. It's a very colloquial way of saying it, and it can be self-effacing, for example:

    Ja tam jestem zwykły szeregowy pracownik, co ja mogę wiedzieć. = Ja jestem tylko zwykłym szeregowym pracownikiem, co ja mogę wiedzieć.
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2012
  19. LilianaB Senior Member

    US New York
    Lithuanian
    This is really something new. Yes, in certain dialects it was always the Nominative in such phrases, instead of the the Instrumental, but not in standard Polish. The people I have a pleasure to meet sometimes at various hearings (many of them blue collar workers) would introduce themselves -- as: Nazywam się Marek Malinowski, Jestem murarzem, malarzem, pomocnikiem malarza w komapnii X. These are not second generation Poles, but rather people who have been here for 3-5 years. Yes, I agree with you as to the form, but it is a dialect. It would not be correct if you wrote something like that in a paper, or as an answer to a test question.
     
  20. francisgranada Senior Member

    Slovakia
    Hungarian
    The difference is that jestem murarzem does not indicate a real identity, but rather a "function/job/position/profession ...". In theory, one can be today a "murarz" and tomorrow a "profesor na universytecie"... But if one is Poniatowski, this is his identity (even independently on his will). The nominative in this case is "natural".

    I am not a Pole (Polish), so I may be wrong, but jestem Poniatowskim for me would have a figurative meaning, something like "I am in the position of Poniatowski", "I am similar to Poniatowski", "I look like Poniatowski", etc ...

    What I find interesting, from the linguistacal point of view, is not Jestem Książę Poniatowski (because it's the "normal" usage of the nominative case in many languages), but rather the usage of the instrumental case in Jestem profesorem na universytecie, because this construction is expressed differently in various languages. The Slavic instrumental seems to be an appropriate and even an "understandable" solution, because jestem murarzem, in the original sense of the instrumental case, does not express my identity, but (philosophically speaking) rather my "role", i.e. I am an "instrument" for building/constructing walls, houses or so ...
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2012
  21. LilianaB Senior Member

    US New York
    Lithuanian
    Hi, Franncis. I would not call identity but rather a title. Identity is something else in my opinion. Murarz Karwowski. (This would imply the title he holds within his company. Such a phrase could be used during an introduction, in very specific circumstances. As the Instrumental -- it indicates profession, rather than a title. Jestem murarz is just plain wrong in literary Polish (without any socio-linguistic coloring of the dialogue, as in a book written partially in a dialect).

    I agree -- Jestem Ksiąze Poniatowski is right because Książę is a title. (This is an answer to the question: Who are you? The other one is an answer to the question What is your profession? What are you?)
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2012
  22. francisgranada Senior Member

    Slovakia
    Hungarian
    Hi, Liliana. My intention was to find the "original logic" (from a Slavic point of view) behind the nominative/instrumental and not to comment the actual usage in Polish.
     
  23. LilianaB Senior Member

    US New York
    Lithuanian
    I agree with most of your points. The Instrumental is definitely used as an answer to the question: What are you? (sort of instrumental). The Nominative is used to answer the question: Who are you?.
     
  24. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    Norway
    Polish
    This is something we have already established. There is no point in repeating it.
     
  25. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    Norway
    Polish
    I made some research and found that Polish is the only Slavic language using instrumental in sentences of the type “I am a teacher”. Moreover, it seems that the development is quite recent, not older than the XIX century, and only used in “standard Polish” (based on the literary form), and rarely used in colloquial language or dialects (where it sounds “high brow”).
     
  26. LilianaB Senior Member

    US New York
    Lithuanian
    The instrumental is used in Slovak and Russian (with a verb to work instead of be, but really with a very similar meaning). This might not be the subject of this forum, though.
     
  27. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    Norway
    Polish
    It would fit the forum for "Other Slavic languages".
     

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